It’s not the most conventional way to begin a review, perhaps, but before I start, I just want to say this: buy VineKing (out now, $1.99). In fact, grab the game right now and then come back and read this review while it downloads. There are few games on the App Store which have held me completely captive, forcing me to complete them in a single-sitting instead of over multiple sessions. I couldn’t even discern what I was getting myself into by looking at the game’s screenshots or reading the description. What had me confused during the game’s initial levels finally held me shaking my head in amazement, taken aback by how much I truly enjoyed the short but incredibly sweet experience VineKing brings to the table.
What was once a “time of great joy” has turned into devastation for the titular Vine King and his planet’s inhabitants. A crashed meteor spares no survivors other than the mighty King, who decides to take matters into his own hands by gradually restoring life back to each section of the planet. Restoration of life is a three-step multitasking process which must be kept in balance throughout your adventure: 1) Drawing a path from the Vine King out onto the playing field in order to destroy lava-rock and restore life 2) collecting seeds which are dropped by enemies and hidden underneath lava-rock, in order to replenish your Vine Supply and 3) defending the Vine King from waves of incoming enemies.
Path-drawing is extremely intuitive and is by no means restricted: drawing circles, u-turns or squares is extremely simple. Your path is highlighted by a bright green line extending out from the Vine King; once the path reaches its maximum length – which can be increased by leveling up, explained later – you release your finger from the screen. This triggers a Vine to shoot out and follow your path, destroying all lava-blocks in the way and restoring life on those grids.
A green meter on your left keeps track of your Vine supply; as lava-blocks are destroyed and life is restored, your meter depletes. A button on the bottom-left corner enables you to collect dropped seeds scattered about the playing area via the Vine King’s vacuum-like mouth. These refill your meter and allow you to continue your quest. In addition to restoring life and your Vine supply, swarms of monsters rush you at regular intervals trying to hinder your progress. Tapping on these enemies gives the Vine King orders to lash out at them using his trusty hair-whip, effectively putting them out of their misery. As you complete levels and gain gold, your seed collecting speed, vine’s speed and its maximum length can all be enhanced to make your multitasking woes a bit more bearable.
Sounds simple enough, right? Words can’t effectively explain how easy this seems during the game’s introductory levels, yet how frantic and sticky the action gets as you progress through the game. Though the action consistently keeps you on your toes, I was able to finish the game’s various levels within an hour, and I don’t consider myself really good at these time-management types of games. Only a couple of levels had me stumped and forced me to reach for the game’s retry button, but most of the game is quite easy to breeze through (including the boss-levels). Once finished, the game manages to leave you with a heavy dose of bitter-sweet confusion. I found myself craving for more, yet was disappointed at how brief (and effortless) the experience was. I can only hope for updates and plans for level packs in order to sate this feeling, something I will keep my fingers crossed and eyes peeled for the weeks and months to come.
iFanzine Verdict: If you’re seeking a truly fresh and fun gameplay experience, look no further than VineKing. The game’s short duration should by no means be a deciding factor for your purchase; buy it, play it, and relish its outlandish originality while it lasts.